Past and presence: the histories and legacies of London’s Black lesbian community

Paula Akpan in conversation with Valerie Mason-John

Fuzzy Dames Show poster

Past event archive
24 February 2024, 19.00-20.00

Law Photography Studio

£15 (£12 Members / concessions)

Meditating on The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure and the artwork on display which explores one of the three central themes – ‘Kinship and Connection’ – this event will bring together historian and journalist, Paula Akpan, and author and mindfulness teacher, Valerie Mason-John, to discuss the past realities of London’s Black, Queer community and to celebrate the present possibilities (and realities) of kinship in that community today.


Paula Akpan is a journalist and historian. Both her historical practice and journalism interrogate themes of Blackness, queerness, community-building and our relationship with technology. She regularly writes for a variety of publications including Vogue, Teen Vogue, The Independent, VICE, i-D, Bustle, Time Out London and more.

With an MA in Black British History, Paula's dissertation examined the personal, interpersonal and political development of Black lesbian organising in the UK from the 1970s to 1990s. Her first book, WHEN WE RULED, traces the lives and legacies of 12 African queens and war leaders who contributed to the shaping of the continent.


Dr. Valerie (Vimalasara) Mason-John (hon.doc) M.A. was once named a Black Gay Icon in the UK queer press and, with their award-winning novel Borrowed Body, was said to have ‘penned the British Color Purple’. 

They are the co-author and editor of the first two books to document the lives of Black and Asian British lesbians in Britain. They were the artistic director of London Mardi Gras, the co-producer of the national lesbian beauty contest that was screened on Channel Four and ran the largest women’s nightclub in Europe. After retiring from the queer scene, they were ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Community. They are the author of the award-winning book Eight Step Recovery: Using The Buddhist Teachings to Overcome Addiction

More recently their social justice poetics I’m Still Your Negro: An Homage to James Baldwin was shortlisted for two Canadian Literary Awards. Their 11th book, A First Aid Kit For The Mind, Breaking the Cycle of Habitual Behaviours, will be published this year in May. They reside in Canada.